Boston Women’s Journal - February/March 2008

Choosing an Alternative Healthcare Provider

There are many good reasons to work “outside the box” of traditional medical care. I have gratitude for a system that has saved so many lives, but recognize its limitations.

A person may only have limited time with the doctor regardless of the problem. I know a gentleman who was pushed out of the doctor’s office after a diagnosis of cancer in fifteen minutes. He had questions, was crying from shock and fear, yet he had to leave immediately. The room was needed. He then had to wait several weeks to speak with another doctor, at yet another facility. This story surprises no one. It is inhumane, yet the doctor didn’t have the time required to reassure the patient. There was a line of patients in the waiting room. We all nod our heads at this story. My patient is eighty-six.

Our co-payments for an individual visit may be what we paid for all our services for a year’s care before co-payments existed. You are really in trouble if you have a chronic illness. The current medical answer may be lots of pills and maybe tests, but only if they are covered adequately by your insurance policy.

So we seek alternatives. I moved to complementary medicine (a practice that includes the best of both worlds, the traditional and modern) to care for people who have problems too confusing or too time consuming to be diagnosed and treated within traditional Western care. I have a formal background as a Rehabilitation Counselor, with traditional training in medical practices and psychotherapy. I added many years of alternative training and continue to work to keep current with both mainstream and alternative modalities.

As a Medical Intuitive, Energy Healer, and Integrative Therapist, I want to stay the course with people, not just see them once. I want to build a relationship of healing, and work with people to achieve their optimal level of health. This past month three women I worked with are successfully pregnant after years without success using traditional means. A woman who suffered from severe arthritis is now back to her normal schedule. I can’t always help everyone. I wish I could.

When is an alternative practitioner safe? Will you feel worse? Anyone can call themselves an alternative practitioner. There are no specific qualifications such as an M.D. that establish a basic level of knowledge or peer review. It is daunting. And there are a lot of people claiming to have the answer out there. Pick up any magazine and you will often find a range of alternative choices from past life readers to homeopathic physicians.

Are there ways to check and make sure that the person you go to for alternative care is safe and knowledgeable? As always common sense is the key.

I know of several practitioners in this area who call themselves Doctor, yet their doctorate may be in something unrelated to health, psychology or medicine. How does this happen? They are allowed to use the honorarium doctor as a title, and what people assume about their training is not their problem. Always check. Find out if they have a web site. A visit through cyberspace will usually provide the details you need. Most reputable practitioners have one for just this reason. We want an open book on our history, training and experience. If you have trouble finding information that is a warning sign.

Interview the practitioner. Anyone who cares about your health will spend fifteen minutes talking with you and explaining their methods of practice and what to expect when you see them.

Ask if they work cooperatively with other practitioners in both the traditional and the alternative world. Most of us have a good group of doctors and alternative care practitioners with whom we work. These are people that can also provide a reference for the practitioner. Knowing that there is a good cross referral system is also reassuring. I know what I can and cannot help with, and having reliable people to send folks to is very important. Someone who never refers out is usually foolish. No one can do it all.

Special care is required in the area of therapy. As I mentioned I trained traditionally, and gradually have moved to more alternative modalities. Practitioners who do not have a “real” degree or license to practice therapy can cause untold damage. New ideas and methods are great, but a basic understanding of human mental processes is essential to “do no harm”.

Find out if they are members of any associations, and what the qualifications for membership are. These associations are created to further the practice of a specialty and are often very happy to send you information. Be safe and use all the tools at your disposal to get well and stay healthy. You deserve it.